WASHINGTON — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) said March 15 that it has signed an agreement with Space Systems/Loral to launch one of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based satellite builder’s 1300 model spacecraft into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket for an unspecified customer as early as 2012.

Space Systems/Loral President John Celli said March 16 that the contract with SpaceX is not for any satellite Loral is currently building, but could be part of a package for a future Loral customer once the Falcon 9 performance is proved.

“We want to support the Falcon 9 entry into the market, and this was a way for us to purchase, at a relatively low cost, a reservation on a launch once the vehicle increases its capability to carry one of our satellites,” Celli said in an interview. “Our current satellites weigh about 5,000 kilograms.”

SpaceX said the Falcon 9 vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., is able to carry a satellite weighing “more than” 4,500 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, the destination of most telecommunications satellites.

SpaceX completed a 3.5-second Falcon 9 static fire March 13 in preparation for conducting the rocket’s maiden launch in the weeks ahead. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company has 24 Falcon 9 flights on its launch manifest through 2015.


Brian Berger is editor in chief of SpaceNews.com and the SpaceNews magazine. He joined SpaceNews.com in 1998, spending his first decade with the publication covering NASA. His reporting on the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident was...